An article in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend reports
Google Inc. increasingly is promoting some of its own content over that of rival websites when users perform an online search, prompting competing sites to cry foul.
The Internet giant is displaying links to its own services—such as local-business information or its Google Health service—above the links to other, non-Google content found by its search engine.
The complaints are coming from some big players which makes this whole thing all the more interesting.
Those companies say their links are being pushed lower on the results page to make room for the Google sites. Critics include executives at travel site TripAdvisor.com, health site WebMD.com and local-business reviews sites Yelp.com and Citysearch.com, among others.
“There is no denying that today Google is competing [with many websites] for the same Web traffic and the same advertising dollars,” said Jay Herratti, chief executive of CityGrid Media, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp. that owns Citysearch and sister sites Urbanspoon.com and InsiderPages.com.
These cries of foul are coming from sites that for years have been getting the bulk of their traffic from Google. Now that Google has made some significant changes in how they present information, especially in the local space, the big sites in the Google index are crying foul. And, rather than work to figure out how Google is doing this and what exactly Google is looking for, they are reverting to the same trick that kids do when they have something taken from them which is to whine.
TripAdvisor LLC Chief Executive Stephen Kaufer said the traffic his site gets from Google’s search engine dropped by more than 10%, on a seasonally adjusted basis, since mid-October—just before Google announced the latest change to the way its search engine shows information about local businesses. TripAdvisor.com, whose top source of traffic is Google, reviews hotels and other businesses frequented by travelers.
OK class, let’s go over this again. Google is a company not a government agency. They can do whatever they want to do and there is literally no basis for anyone to cry foul if they feel they are not being treated the way they should be. Personally, I am glad that Google doesn’t simply serve up a list of information aggregators (most of whom are just glorified directories of some nature really). People go to Google for direct information and being passed off to another source that requires more search to get to the answer is a bad result for a Google user.
For these companies to hold their breath and kick their feet because Google has taken away their search lollipop is absurd. Google is not a government entity that is designed for handouts and ‘fair’ treatment. It’s a business that has done something better than anyone else and as a result most people turn to them for answers. That’s not being a monopoly that’s simply being better than every other competitor. In capitalism, that’s what wins. We are still a capitalist economy and country for now so just stop whining!
Google responded in the article with the following
“We built Google for users, not websites, and our goal is to give users answers,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. “Sometimes the most useful answer isn’t ’10 blue links,’ but a map for an address query, or a series of images for a query like ‘pictures of Egyptian pyramids.’ We often provide these results in the form of ‘quick answers’ at the top of the page, because our users want a quick answer.”
Honestly, it’s getting really old to listen to companies treat Google like they actually are owed something from the search engine. They are owed nothing. There is nothing that says that once rankings are achieved they will always remain the same.
I would suspect that there are plenty of smaller TripAdvisor like sites that would love to have a chance to unseat the big sites that rank ahead of them. They get the fact though that sites like TripAdvisor, WebMD, Yelp and Citysearch have distinct advantages over them due to scale and, dare I say, having a better mousetrap. As a result, these larger and more established sites dominate. I don’t hear these big players crying for more fair treatment of their smaller competitors in the search engines, do you?
As I have said on many occasions before this writing, I am not a Google apologist. I don’t get paid by Google. Heck, I literally don’t even know anyone there so there is no other motive I would have to defend the search engine other than the fact that it’s good at what it does. Is there something better out there? Not presently and I think we would all love to see a real competitor to Google rather than the half-assed efforts of the Bing – Yahoo Alliance. The reality is though, that Google works and it works better than anything else at the scale to which it operates.
For fun, though, let’s just look at how ‘unfair’ Google seems to be to TripAdvisor as an example.
Here is the result for the search term “New York hotel”.
What Google gives me is hotels, just like I asked. Then it shows me TripAdvisor after it lists specific hotels because the TripAdvisor site is not about a hotel but it’s about many hotels and it requires more searching. The searcher now has options. Mission accomplished. Oh and maybe the real problem is that Expedia ranks higher than trip Advisor in the organic space?
Now here are the results for a search for “New York hotel reviews”
Seems to me as if this is the exact right way to represent this result and TripAdvisor has the number one position. Google nailed it.
I am sure there are plenty of examples of search results that are perceived to be skewed but that happens to everyone. That happens to plumbers, lawyers, doctors, coffee shops etc everyday in the SERP’s and guess what: it should. There are no squatter’s rights in the search engines. They are earned and they are earned based on criteria. It’s just like since not everyone can get into Harvard that doesn’t mean Harvard is doing anything wrong, they are just doing it the way they see fit. Is it fair? That’s not even important because it is impossible to be fair to everyone. Just get over that idea because it’s not possible.
So if you are having trouble with Google and their way of ranking sites make sure you add to your list of best practices to whine about everything. Many of the big boys seem to be doing it so it must be right. Right?